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Bring the heat

Prep Focus • Wilson baseball players prepare for the season with Bikram yoga sessions
by: L.E. BASKOW, Wilson ballplayers get into poses in 
the 105-degree heat at Bikram’s Yoga College of India. Working “out of the stretch” is Matt Meuser.

Nothing says baseball training like … yoga? So says Wilson coach Mike Clopton, whose Trojans experienced their first yoga session a couple of weeks ago.

'We're just looking for a competitive edge,' Clopton says.

The Trojans, who won the 2006 state championship and won the PIL 6A again last year, will need every advantage they can get now that star Joey Mahalic has graduated to the Cleveland Indians' organization.

'With Joey gone, pitching will be our weakness,' Clopton says. 'Our pitchers aren't very flexible, so someone suggested that we try yoga.'

The workout the Trojans went through was a lot more than just meditation and relaxation.

'Coming into it, I figured it would be relaxing,' senior outfielder Max Teschner says.

But this was Bikram yoga, with the room temperature turned up to 105 degrees, and it had the players twisting, turning, bending and flexing their whole body.

'It is definitely a cardio workout,' says Christy Whitney, instructor/owner at Bikram's Yoga College of India in Johns Landing.

Even stripped down to their shorts, the Trojans ended the session drenched in sweat.

'It wears you out mentally and physically,' Teschner says.

Whitney noticed that while the players looked like they were fit, they still had room for improvement.

'Externally, they are in very good shape,' she says. 'However, their core strength needs work, which explains why they struggled at times.'

But she says the Trojans did well for their first time.

'I thought they did an amazing job, especially for not doing yoga before,' says Whitney, who has worked with other athletes but never with a baseball team.

While a few of the Trojans couldn't help but laugh in the beginning - hearing things like 'waking up the spine' and 'when you can calm your breathing, you can do anything' -Clopton feels that his players took the workout seriously.

'I thought the kids were really focused,' he says. 'High-schoolers sometimes don't listen, but everyone was on task - except for me. I gave up a few times.'

Mahalic joined in on the workout.

'It's a different world, compared to the training we do for Cleveland,' he says. 'All we do is weights and running. And the heat just cranked up the intensity.'

Clopton says Mahalic, who has practiced nonheated yoga before, is a big influence on the returning Trojans.

'Joey was our hardest worker and has just been a great example for the rest of the kids to learn from,' Clopton says.

Mahalic is not the only professional baseball player who practices yoga. Former Oregon State Beavers Jacoby Ellsbury (Boston Red Sox), Cole Gillespie (Milwaukee Brewer system) and Darwin Barney (Chicago Cub system) all have done yoga at Velocity in Hillsboro.

Clopton is enthusiastic about getting his players in good shape. He praises Wilson's new weight-training teacher, Marc Niebergall, for making the Trojans stronger.

Now Clopton hopes that the Trojans have found a competitive edge -and one that won't land them in the next Mitchell Report.